Outside absolute peak periods in major tourist destinations, it's rarely necessary to reserve accommodations in advance in Nicaragua.
- Hospedajes These cheap guesthouses are often family-run and are sometimes the only option in smaller towns.
- Hotels Larger and more polished; boutique hotels can be intimate and characterful. They offer facilities including reception and often a restaurant.
- Hostels Traveler's hostels with dormitories and common areas are only found in the main tourist areas.
- Ecolodges Usually at the higher end of the market, these offer comfortable rooms surrounded by nature.
- Surfing lodges Offer all-inclusive surfing packages, and often shared accommodations and great food.
Ranging from five-star resorts to windowless shacks with shared latrines, you really have your choice of accommodations in developed A-list destinations such as Managua, Granada, León, San Juan del Sur and the Corn Islands. Top-end places start to thin out a bit as you head for the interior.
We divide hotels into categories according to price, then order by author preference. The majority of hotel rooms in Nicaragua have their own bathroom, and in our listings we stipulate when the bathroom is shared, except of course in dorms where the bathroom is always shared.
Absolute peak season in Nicaragua is really only two weeks or so – Christmas and Easter, when entire towns book out and prices skyrocket. Outside that time, many hotels maintain prices year-round. If there is a high season, it’s somewhere between November and March – outside the rainy months. We list prices for normal high season, not absolute peak.
Budget hotels, sometimes called hospedajes, are inexpensive compared to the rest of Central America. You can almost always get your own clean wooden room, with a window and a shared bathroom, for under US$6 per person per night. Double that and you get a bigger room and a private bathroom. Prices are higher in A-list destinations, where there are always cheap dorm beds (US$8 to US$12) if you’re traveling on a shoestring. In less-developed regions, you may be using bucket-flush toilets and bucket showers in this price range. Budget travelers should always bring candles and a flashlight (torch), just in case. If there’s no mosquito net, just ask.
There’s a good midrange option, with clean, modern rooms, private bathroom, 24-hour electricity, running water and a nice setting or neighborhood, in every major town. It tends to cost US$20 to US$35 for a double; tack on US$10 to US$15 for an A-list destination. Solo travelers usually get, at most, a 20% discount in this category. Also note that hotels in the midrange and top-end categories have a 15% tax added to the rate. In Granada and León there are a few characterful midrange hotels and B&Bs inside historic houses and mansions.
Luxury accommodations, where they exist, can be a good deal – the most expensive resort in the country clocks in at around US$280 per person, which certainly isn’t for everyone, but is a steal compared to Costa Rica. Boutique hotels (with doubles going for US$70 to US$150), concentrated in Managua and Granada, generally have fewer than 10 rooms, and are creatively decorated with lots of little luxuries.
In rural areas, there may not be signed guesthouses, but almost all small towns have families who rent rooms. Ask at the alcaldía (mayor’s office) for leads on weekdays, or any open business on weekends. Some communities have formalized homestays through Spanish schools (you don’t need to be a student – just ask at the school) or as part of community-based alternative tourism, such as at Área Protegida Miraflor. Camping is available in a few private and natural reserves, and is also allowed for free on most less-developed beaches.
House- and room-sharing services have become popular in the most-visited destinations, such as Granada, León and Managua.
Along Nicaragua's Pacific Coast there are numerous surfing lodges that offer all-inclusive week-long surfing packages for around US$1200 to US$1400 per person. Expect breezy, comfortable digs and excellent food, though you may have to share your room if you're a solo traveler.